John F. Kennedy Boulevard (Tampa, Florida)

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John F. Kennedy Boulevard
Florida 60.svg
Length 5.3 mi (8.5 km)
West end Memorial Highway in Tampa
East end Channelside Drive in Tampa

John F. Kennedy Boulevard (better known as Kennedy Boulevard), is a major east-west corridor in Tampa, Florida. The roadway was originally known as Lafayette Street and later Grand Central Avenue west of the downtown area in the City of Tampa during the 19th century and early-to-mid-20th century. At that time, it was mainly a two-lane thoroughfare. JFK Boulevard carries the State Road 60 designation through its entire route.

Some places of interest that can be accessed from this route include WestShore Plaza, International Plaza and Bay Street, Tampa International Airport via the Veterans Expressway, the University of Tampa, Downtown Tampa, and the Port of Tampa. Kennedy Boulevard represents the northern boundary of South Tampa. The route runs from Memorial Highway to Channelside Drive.

History[edit]

Prior to the construction of the Interstate Highway system in Tampa, which began in the early 1960s, Grand Central Avenue was the main artery for heavy westbound traffic emptying from downtown Tampa and points eastward during rush hour. When Interstate 4 opened in the mid-1960s offering travelers express movement in both directions, Kennedy Boulevard traffic shrunk to less than 50 percent of its previous activity, and its many businesses that depended on the high traffic count closed or relocated. Today, with Tampa's exploding population and attendant commercial and residential development, Kennedy Boulevard is once again a significant part of the city's travel network.

The road was renamed for President John F. Kennedy in 1964 by unanimous vote of Tampa City Council following his visit to Tampa on November 18, 1963, and his assassination in Dallas four days later on November 22. His motorcade made use of the roadway during that visit. It was chosen for such a renaming because Kennedy had used about five miles (8 km) of Grand Central Avenue for his motorcade leading through the center of the business district. According to Kennedy Library records, President Kennedy's public exposure in Tampa was only second in length of time during his entire presidency to that of his visit earlier that year to Berlin, Germany. Since then, the roadway has seen many changes, such as expansions to 4-6 lanes. Today, Kennedy Blvd. is a vital link to and from downtown Tampa and serves as an alternate to I-275 during rush hour.

WTVT - Fox 13's Studio is located on Kennedy Blvd. near MacDill Avenue and Henderson Boulevard. On that cool November day in 1963, a live TV camera perched atop the station's front portico captured President Kennedy's motorcade as it whizzed eastward on then Grand Central Avenue on its way through downtown Tampa and on to Tampa's Ft. Homer Hesterly Armory. At that time, live remotes from multiple locations were a rarity for local stations so this part of the motorcade was all of the President's visit that many Tampa Bay area residents were able to witness via television.

About the same time as the renaming, a group of Tampa community activists headed by then local Democratic Party Chairman Robert Florio pooled resources to commission a life-sized statue of the slain President by a prominent Italian artist. The piece was shipped to the United States in mid-1964 and erected at a site at Plant Park on the University of Tampa campus at Hyde Park Street, where the statue faces Kennedy Blvd.

External links[edit]

  • The historic Lafayette Street Bridge over the Hillsborough River. The first wooden bascule bridge that was built at this crossing. It opened to traffic in the late 19th century and was replaced by a newer bascule bridge in the early 20th century. The bridge was later modified to today's appearance in the mid-20th century. The University of Tampa can be seen in the background.